May 23, 2017 / 1:02 PM / 2 years ago

Thailand to speed investment approvals in ambitious development plan

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand’s junta will invoke a constitutional provision this week to help speed investment approvals in an ambitious $44-billion effort to develop the country’s industrial east, a government spokesman said on Tuesday.

A building is seen under construction in Bangkok, Thailand May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Growth in Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy has lagged regional peers since the army took power in 2014. Planned large infrastructure projects have been slow to get off the ground.

The military government hopes the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) development project will lift growth to about 5 percent a year by 2020, from a projected figure of around 3 percent to 4 percent this year.

“The government is committed to the EEC in order to drive the country’s economy,” the government spokesman, Sansern Kaewkamnerd, told reporters, adding that he expected the measure to be announced this week.

The measure will allow a panel chaired by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to approve public-private investment projects in the corridor, hastening a process that now takes between eight and nine months, Sansern said.

It will also help cut to less than a year the time needed for environment impact assessments, he added.

The government will use Article 44 of the constitution, which makes final any of its actions, to drive through the changes, which will also allow foreigners a stake of more than 50 percent in firms in the aerospace maintenance business, Sasern said.

Thailand hopes to attract foreign participation in the sector by offering a controlling stake that would allow investors to protect their patents and copyrights for the processes involved, he added.

Thailand has identified the industry as key to its ambitions of becoming an Asian aviation hub.

In February, the government said it hoped to attract 1.5 trillion baht (£33.6 billion) in private investment to the development corridor, which encompasses links among the three eastern provinces of Chonburi, Rayong, and Chachoengsao.

The government plans to invest 300 billion baht in the project.

Reporting by Kitiphong Thaichareon; Writing by Orathai Sriring; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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